It was pretty obvious that the first interview for this essay should be the director of the Arts Centre were I intend to hold my exhibition. Although not a curator in the truest sense of the word he is responsible for a large portion of the Arts Scene in Windsor and has been involved in curating many aspects of this scene. I’ve removed his name and replaced his initials with “Ans” as I don’t want to put his name on the Internet without his permission.
GW: These questions are about Art in general but, out of curiosity, do you have any interest in photography specifically?
Ans: My first interest is music and always has been but though my work in the Old Court, and before that, I found that it was impossible to not have some interest in other forms of art if one was interested in a particular form. Nowadays, classical music might be a slight exception, but in other forms there’s so much crossover between forms that you move, or are moved, into other areas almost without realising it.
GW: You’re central to the Arts scene in Windsor through the Old Court and the Festival – you could say “at the apex”. How do you see it?
Ans: Yes, I mean that I wouldn’t won’t to posture on it but that’s the aim of both of them, both organisations, and if my job is to facilitate that and get them both working like that then “yes” that’s absolutely right. Yep.
GW: Curator or Curationism is a trendy word now. You could describe yourself as a curator to Art in the community – is this fair?
Ans: Yes, I mean, I think that’s very much the case. I see it as <pause> it works … there’s two sides to it. One, it is providing for the people who are going to consume and the other is facilitating for those who are providing … and so it is a balance of the two because we’re not the Arts Council and we’re not solely concerned with providing work for artists. We are principally concerned with serving the community. So, you’ve got to think about what will work for them, and what people want to see. It doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re driven by being populist but by what you think is going to be of interest. But also, as a curator, and producer I suppose … there’s no science to it. You know, it’s very much an individual thing and somebody else would do it completely differently. But I always start with what I think are the opportunities to make life a bit more enjoyable, more colourful
GW: How did your role develop?
Ans: It’s funny but I have no particular training or background in this, I’ve never read a book studied any theories on the subject to curating or on how to do what I do. It’s simply, I suppose, experience and intuition – a bit like life I suppose 😊
GW: You’ve mentioned your two roles and there seems to be a lot of synergy between them?
Ans: Indeed, they should do because this place is, as you know, the community Arts Centre and when we took over it was very, very important, to me, to get as many people through the doors as we possibly could. To make people want to use it, to make it busy, vibrant and with filling the time that it’s open. I mean it’s open 7 days a week. Adding a cinema to the site has been a good thing as well in this respect. So, it’s natural that the Festival should use this place, as is the Fringe this year. Because the Festival in its early days was very easily defined as slightly “club-like” and if you weren’t in it then it wasn’t for you. And there’s no point in that really because the Festival should represent all sorts of different people and events and audiences. So, this has been a great boost to our Festival program because it has allowed us to do stuff that we didn’t have the facility to do before. Because you can’t put on a Rock and Roll in St George’s Chapel so now, having an auditorium here of 160 seats with theatre-style equipment, we can do that so … in previous years the Festival did occasionally use here but it was very difficult from a relationship point of view. We couldn’t establish any sense of partnership so it is great that they do support each other.
GW: I’ve noticed that the successful exhibitions or shows in Windsor, including the Old Court, generally tell a story – do you agree and do you think that is necessary for a successful exhibition?
Ans: I think that storytelling is a very, very important part of Arts activity and provision and it can be very basic, it can be in the sense of a straightforward classical music concert where you might just listen to the music and you might not get much od a story at all. Obviously, with more romantic music you move into that where it’s telling you about something nut a Haydn symphony or a Mozart symphony doesn’t really give you a story. However, the experience of going to the State Apartments in the Castle for a performance or a concert in those wonderful surroundings is almost like a pilgrimage, walking up to the chapel and listening to this wonderful music is almost like a story in itself.
GW: In those circumstances isn’t it the listener that is creating his or her own story?
Ans: Yes, I think that people do, I mean if you’re hindered by detailed program notes detailing things like “listen out for the clarinet entry three minutes into the second movement” then it becomes deadly dull and the mind can start focussing on other things like “What did I forget in Waitrose?” or it can create a story. Having said that, in the visual arts, they are “given” to telling a story and you look around here and see the current photos of the Festival and you see Terry Waite talking and you wonder where is that? Why is he there? Similarly with sculpture, you have the horses on the roundabout by the Long Walk or … obviously in Windsor we have a lot of regal connections, with memorials or statues al creating or reminding us of stories. So there’s very much a place for “seeing” what somebody is trying to tell you. Which again, we all work on different levels. You might look at a work at a very basic level or you might go into it profoundly and that’s all about the experience.
It’s very interesting, when the Festival does its schools exhibit where we exhibit prize-winning work from A level students from all around the Borough the experience of seeing the artist as a child watching other people react to their work which they’ve being doing in the classroom and suddenly it’s out for the critical eye is fascinating. Because somebody might miss it completely whereas somebody else might say that it’s amazing “it reminds me of those Ghanaian pots that people carry on their heads” and the artist would think “Good Lord, I never thought of that” then thinking that there’s somebody that I will never meet again but is making a connection and thinking about my work.
GW: What are you looking for when you curate or host an exhibition here?
Ans: The purpose of the Old Court is primarily to be a commercial organisation, without the revenue from the theatre, cinema, classes and the bar we, obviously, couldn’t survive, we need them to subsidise the other areas. At the same time, we want to encourage the art scene in Windsor as we are, as I mentioned, in effect the Community Arts Centre, so we’re heavily associated with the Windsor Festival and with the Winsor Fringe. As part of that we try and have a permanent exhibition in this area to, in effect, advertise art. Mainly we’re looking for something that has a local interest